The Woodlands is the U.S. city with the No. 10 biggest holiday spending budget in 2023, and a few other Texas neighborhoods rank highly as well. The Woodlands Mall/Facebook

Santa and his elves get busier with every passing year, but sometimes even Kris Kringle has to use his black card to get the job done. And according to a new study by Wallethub, Santa's gonna be working overtime to fulfill the orders for residents of The Woodlands this holiday season.

The personal finance experts have determined The Woodlands is the U.S. city with the No. 10 biggest holiday spending budget in 2023. Shoppers in the affluent Houston suburb are expected to spend $3,316 this festive season.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, The Woodlands' estimated population of 114,436 had a median household income of $130,011.

This is The Woodlands' first time in the holiday shopping spotlight. The Houston suburb ranked a much lower – No. 71 – in last year's report with an average spending budget of $1,733. Way to step it up.

The nearby city of Sugar Land is a returnee, and moved up one place from No. 15 last year into No. 14 this year. The average holiday budget for a Sugar Land household is $3,210.

Houston fell into No. 209 this year with an average household holiday budget of $1,296. Houston skyrocketed away from its previous rank as No. 366 in 2022 with an average spending budget of $890.

Six other East Texas cities landed in this year's report on the heftiest holiday budgets:

  • No. 31 – Pearland ($2,566)
  • No. 34 – Missouri City ($2,517)
  • No. 234 – Beaumont ($1,244)
  • No. 238 – Pasadena ($1,237)
  • No. 407 – Conroe ($935)
  • No. 438 – Baytown ($872)

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio, and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Shoppers will have to keep a closer eye on their bank accounts this year while they search for the best gifts for their loved ones. Many consumers are running out of savings accumulated during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Yao Jin, an associate professor of supply chain management at Miami University.

To combat overspending, Jin suggests setting hard budgets based on personal financial circumstances and develop a list of "must haves" rather than "nice to haves."

"Holiday times are festive, and retailers know that festivities can boost mood and lead to a propensity to overspend," he said in the Wallethub report. "In fact, that is also why retailers tend to have more generous return policies to both alleviate concerns of unwanted gifts and buyer’s remorse. The key to avoiding holiday overspending is for consumers to take the emotions out of the decision, to the extent possible."

Other Texas cities that made it in the top 100 include:
  • No. 3 – Frisco ($3,546)
  • No. 5 – Flower Mound ($3,485)
  • No. 22 – Allen ($2,964)
  • No. 30 – Plano ($2,566)
  • No. 44 – Cedar Park ($2,354)
  • No. 56 – McKinney ($2,165)
  • No. 67 – Carrollton ($1,928)
  • No. 71 – Austin ($1,877)
  • No. 77 – Richardson ($1,809)
  • No. 95 – League City ($1,733)
  • No. 99 – North Richland Hills ($1,706)

The report and its methodology can be found on wallethub.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

About 34 percent of Houstonians moved here within the three-year scope of the study. Photo by CY on Unsplash

Houston unpacks No. 7 rank in U.S. for recent moves, says new report

by the numbers

Houston is shifting as people move into the city and around it. A new population analysis by online loan marketplace LendingTree has named Houston the No. 7 metro for recent movers.

The study used population data from a 2021 U.S. Census Bureau survey to determine householders and renters who moved to their current home in 2019 or later. It reflects people moving around Houston as well as moving into it, so it's not just new residents being counted.

About 34 percent of combined homeowners and renters living in their current Houston homes moved here within the three-year scope of the study. For homeowners, that's about 19 percent, compared to about 58 percent of renters.

The three-year median home value appreciation rate in Houston was 15.15 percent, the study says, echoing similar reports that the city remains one of the top housing markets for growth.

But other reports that are not looking at such long-term averages are showing that the market seems to be stabilizing recently. In August of 2023, Zillow reported home prices in Houston dropped 0.4 percent from the previous year to $264,789.

Rent appreciation was not as dramatic, but renters are surely feeling it regardless. The data shows the three-year median gross rent appreciation rate was 4.48 percent.

Renters are much more likely than homeowners to move due to multiple factors: personal circumstances, rising rent prices, landlords who want to change their lease terms, and many others.

"While some regulations protect renters and make it harder for landlords to force them out of their homes, these protections aren’t always robust," the study says. "Because of this, renters can more frequently find themselves in situations where they’re forced to move, even if they like their current home or are strapped for cash."

Both Dallas and Austin also ranked within the top 10, placing No. 1 and No. 2 respectively. Austin saw nearly 39 percent of homeowners and renters moving between 2019 and 2021, while Dallas had 35 percent of homeowners and renters moving within the same time frame.

The U.S. metros with the largest shares of homeowners and renters who moved in 2019 or later are:

  • No. 1 – Austin, Texas (38.82 percent)
  • No. 2 – Dallas (34.91 percent)
  • No. 3 – Las Vegas (34.81 percent)
  • No. 4 – Denver (34.71 percent)
  • No. 5 – Orlando, Florida (34.55 percent)
  • No. 6 – Phoenix (34.03 percent)
  • No. 7 – Houston (33.50 percent)
  • No. 8 – Jacksonville, Florida (33.27 percent)
  • No. 9 – Nashville, Tennessee (33.14 percent)
  • No. 10 – Salt Lake City, Utah (32.94 percent)
The full report can be found on lendingtree.com.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Texas ranks in the top 10 states with promising digital economies. Photo via Getty Images

The future of Texas’ digital economy is strong, according to a new study

by the numbers

A new report from California-based software firm Tipalti ranks Texas in the top 10 for states with the best digital economy outlooks.

Based on findings from Indeed.com, the U.S. Census Bureau, The Computing Technology Industry Association, and BroadbanNow, the study looks at which states and countries are best prepared for future and continued shifts towards a more digitized world.

Texas was ranked ninth overall, with a score of 8.4 out of 10 for Tipalti’s digital economy score. The report based this score on a few criteria. Here’s what it found.

Texas was found to have had:

  • 86.23 “digital jobs” per every 100,000 posted
  • A 425.9 MBps download speed
  • 2,634.01 tech employees per every 100,000 employees
  • An economic impact of $142.8 billion economic impact from the tech sector
  • 39,299 tech firms in the state
  • A $91,885 median tech occupation wage

Comparatively, Virginia, which ranked first with a 10 out of 10 score, had:

  • 125.09 “digital jobs” per every 100,000 posted
  • A 505.6 MBps download speed
  • 4,047.26 tech employees per every 100,000 employees
  • An economic impact of $57.8 from the tech sector
  • 20,600 tech firms in the state
  • A $105,412 median tech occupation wage

Of the states in the top 10, Texas had the second-highest tech sector economic impact, falling only behind California with an impact of $515.6 billion. California also had the highest number of tech firms in the country with a total of 54,303.

Vermont was reported to have embraced remote working the most, with 63.05 remote jobs posted per 100,000 residents. Maryland had the highest average download speeds of 506.7 Mbps. And tech workers in Washington were reported to earn the highest median tech occupation wage of $124,653.

The United States did not rank on Tipalti's list of countries with the most promising digital economies. The city-state, which could "dominate the digital landscape in the near future," according to the report, had $193.93 billion in total tech exports in 2020.

On a late-2022 report, Houston and Texas also ranked high among regions to launch a startup. Houston ranked as ninth, falling just behind Dallas at No. 8, on a list from the 42Floors real estate website of the top spots for new entrepreneurs. Around that same time, Job search platform Lensa also ranked Texas as the best state to launch a startup.
For the second decade in a row, Houston could have the second highest number of new residents for any metro area. Photo by DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

Houston expects to see huge population surge this decade, study says

incoming

Brace yourselves, Houston. Following a decade of eye-popping population growth, Houston is expected in this decade to once again lead the nation's metro areas for the number of new residents.

New data from commercial real estate services company Cushman & Wakefield shows Houston gained 1,284,268 residents from 2010 through 2019. In terms of the number of new residents tallied during the past decade, Houston ranked second among U.S. metro areas, the data indicates.

From 2020 through 2029, Houston is projected to tack on another 1,242,781 residents, Cushman & Wakefield says. For the second decade in a row, that would be the second highest number of new residents for any metro area, the company says. That's around the number of people who live in the Louisville, Kentucky, metro area.

For Houston, the 2020-29 forecast would represent a population growth rate of 17.2 percent, down from 21.6 percent for 2010 through 2019, Cushman & Wakefield says.

As of July 2018, the Census Bureau estimated the Houston area was home to nearly 7 million people, making it the country's fifth largest metro. If the Cushman & Wakefield projection is correct, the metro population would easily exceed 8 million by the end of 2029.

The outlook is based on data from Moody's Analytics and the U.S. Census Bureau. The company published its findings January 7. The outlook takes into account a metro area's birth and death rates, along with the number of people moving into and out of an area.

The forecast indicates Houston won't be alone among Texas metro areas in terms of rolling out the welcome mat for lots of new residents.

Dallas-Fort Worth is expected to once again lead the nation's metro areas for the number of new residents. DFW gained 1,349,378 residents from 2010 through 2019, ranking first among U.S. metro areas for the number of new residents.

From 2020 through 2029, DFW is projected to tack on another 1,393,623 residents. That would be the highest number of new residents for any metro area for the second decade in a row.

The 2020-29 forecast would represent a population growth rate of 17.9 percent, down from 20.9 percent for 2010 through 2019, Cushman & Wakefield says.

As of July 2018, an estimated 7,539,711 people lived in DFW, making it the country's fourth largest metro. Under the Cushman & Wakefield scenario, DFW's population would swell to about 9 million by the time the calendar flips to 2030.

Austin, meanwhile, is projected to retain its No. 9 ranking for headcount growth among U.S. metro areas, according to Cushman & Wakefield. The company says the Austin area added 549,141 residents from 2010 through 2019. From 2020 through 2029, another 602,811 residents are on tap. At that pace, the Austin area is on track to have roughly 2.9 million residents at the outset of the next decade.

Cushman & Wakefield envisions a 26.5 percent population growth rate for the Austin area from 2020 through 2029, down from 31.8 percent in 2010-19.

The Cushman & Wakefield report doesn't include figures for the San Antonio metro area.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Houston biotech company expands leadership as it commercializes sustainable products

joining the team

Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos.

Parachin will lead the Cemvita team that’s developing technology for production of bio-manufactured oil.

“It’s a fantastic moment, as we’re poised to take our prototyping to the next level, and all under the innovative direction of our co-founder Tara Karimi,” Parachin says in a news release. “We will be bringing something truly remarkable to market and ensuring it’s cost-effective.”

Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita, says the hiring of Parachin represents “the natural next step” toward commercializing the startup’s carbon-to-oil process.

“Her background prepared her to bring the best out of the scientists at the inflection point of commercialization — really bringing things to life,” says Moji Karimi, Tara’s brother.

Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

Before being promoted to vice president of commercialization, Garcia was the startup’s commercial director and business development manager. He has a background in engineering and business development.

Founded in 2017, Cemvita recently announced a breakthrough that enables production of large quantities of oil derived from carbon waste.

In 2023, United Airlines agreed to buy up to one billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Cemvita’s first full-scale plant over the course of 20 years.

Cemvita’s investors include the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment arm of Chicago-based United; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based energy company Occidental Petroleum; and Japanese equipment and machinery manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

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This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a logistics startup founder, a marketing expert, and a solar energy innovator.

Matthew Costello, CEO and co-founder of Voyager Portal

Houston logistics SaaS innovator is making waves with its expanded maritime shipping platform. Photo courtesy of Voyager

For several years now, Matthew Costello has been navigating the maritime shipping industry looking for problems to solve for customers with his company, Voyager Portal.

Initially, that meant designing a software platform to enhance communications and organization of the many massive and intricate global shipments happening every day. Founded in 2018 by Costello and COO Bret Smart, Voyager Portal became a integral tool for the industry that helps users manage the full lifecycle of their voyages — from planning to delivery.

"The software landscape has changed tremendously in the maritime space. Back in 2018, we were one of a small handful of technology startups in this space," Costello, who serves as CEO of Voyager, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Now that's changed. ... There's really a huge wave of innovation happening in maritime right now." Read more.

Arielle Rogg, principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises

Arielle Rogg writes in a guest column for InnovationMap about AI in the workforce. Photo via LinkedIn

Arielle Rogg isn't worried about artificial intelligence coming for her job. In fact, she has three reasons why, and she outlines them in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"The advent of AI pushes us humans to acquire new skills and hone our existing abilities so we can work alongside these evolving technologies in a collaborative fashion. AI augments human capabilities rather than replacing us. I believe it will help our society embrace lifelong learning, creating new industries and jobs that have never existed before," she writes in the piece. Read more.

Nathan Childress, founder of Solar Slice

Solar Slice Founder Nathan Childress says his new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet. Photo via LinkedIn

Nuclear engineer and entrepreneur Nathan Childress wants consumers to capture their own ray of sunlight to brighten the prospect of making clean energy a bigger part of the power grid. That's why he founded Solar Slice. The new venture offers a fulfilling way to encourage and promote solar energy and a greener planet.

Although trained in nuclear power plant design, solar power drew his interest as a cheaper and more accessible alternative, and Childress tells InnovationMap that he thinks that the transition to cleaner energy, in Texas especially, needs to step up.

Recent studies show that 80 to 90 percent of the money invested into fighting climate change “aren’t going to things that people actually consider helpful,” Childress says, adding that “they’re more just projects that sound good, that are not actually taking any action." Read more.

Report: Amid difficult market, Houston sees uptick in VC funding

seeing green

Houston-area startups saw a healthy increase in venture capital funding during the first half of 2024 compared with the same period last year, new data shows.

In the first six months of this year, Houston-area startups attracted $760.55 million in VC funding, according to the latest PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor. That’s up 17.7 percent from the $645.99 million collected in the first six months of 2023.

Keep in mind that these figures might not match previously reported numbers. That’s because PitchBook regularly adjusts data as new information becomes available.

In light of various factors, such as the ongoing hype over artificial intelligence, fundraising will likely continue to be challenging for U.S. startups as a whole, according to Nizar Tarhuni, vice president of institutional research and editorial at PitchBook, a provider of VC data.

Nonetheless, Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), points out that American venture capital “is finding its footing in 2024.”

Across the country, VC funding for startups in the first half of 2024 totaled $93.4 billion, up 6.5 percent from the $87.7 billion raised during the same period last year, according to the PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor.

“With steadily increasing deal values, especially across early-stage investments, more first-time financings, and increased crossover investor participation, [the second quarter of 2024] was a good one for VC,” says Franklin. “Now it’s up to founders, investors, and regulators to support, rather than stifle, these green shoots as the market heads toward a recovery.”

In the second quarter alone, VC funding in the U.S. jumped from $35.4 billion in 2023 to $55.6 billion in 2024. That’s an increase of 57 percent.

By contrast, the Houston area’s VC funding went in the opposite direction. Startups in the region scored $231.79 million in VC during the second quarter of 2024 vs. $333.17 million during the same period a year earlier. That’s a drop of 30 percent.

So far in 2024, Houston-based Fervo Energy dominates VC hauls for startups in the metro area. In March, the provider of geothermal power announced it had secured $244 million in funding, with Oklahoma City-based oil and gas company Devon Energy leading the round.

Fervo’s latest pot of VC represents more than 30 percent of all Houston-area VC funding during the first six months of 2024.

Tim Latimer, co-founder and CEO of Fervo, says the $244 million investment enables his company “to continue to position geothermal at the heart of 24/7 carbon-free energy production.”

Fervo says the latest VC round will support development of its 400-megawatt geothermal project in Beaver County, Utah. The Cape Station facility is expected to start generating power for the grid in 2026.